Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
GLOW’s Kia Stevens, discussed in this week’s episode of Head Over Heels
Photo: Emma McIntyre (Getty Images)
PodmassPodmassIn Podmass, The A.V. Club sifts through the ever-expanding world of podcasts and recommends the previous week’s best episodes. Have your own favorite? Let us know in the comments or at podmass@avclub.com.

A Woman’s Smile
A Woman’s Smile Is Stylish


A Woman’s Smile could spawn a Literally Unbelievable Tumblr just as easily as The Onion did. It’s billed as a podcast where co-hosts Patti Harrison and Lorelei Ramirez “talk about, well, everything! But especially the gentle and kind nature of a woman’s smile,” a summary that exemplifies the tone—but it could be taken at face value by the “you’re so pretty when you smile” crowd. Delivered in sketch-like segments, the satire is silly but always carries a sting. The podcast has tackled #MeToo, for example, by inviting “Bill Clinton” to the conversation. What ensues is a parody of gender equality that highlights the damage done when progress is hindered by the patriarchy. This fresh and fun new show balances its punch-packing moments with songs and advertisements to round out the absurdity: “Welcome to the enchanting world of the hat sisters… a story of 50 sisters who all fight over two different hats that say bad things on them, like one says ‘Queen Of Cum,’ and the other, ‘Let Me Suck You.’” [Becca James]

Head Over Heels
Give Kia Stevens an Emmy


The Netflix series GLOW revived interest in the world of women’s wrestling, but there have been plenty of diehard fans just waiting for an opportunity to talk about everything from classic moves to the psychology of the characters to the best audience members. One such fan is Harmony Cox, who is joined by TV fanatic Meryl Williams to recap season two of GLOW for their Head Over Heels podcast. This time around, the pair cover episodes three and four of the show, first lightheartedly exploring the phenomenon of ridiculous ’80s public service announcements and then addressing the inherent problems that come with wrestling stereotypes. Cox provides a history lesson for anyone new to the genre about real-life wrestler Kia Stevens, who plays Tammé “Welfare Queen,” offering a real look at the ways in which racism has affected her career and the industry as a whole. Stevens uses her fandom to pull in other examples of “heels” (or villains in wrestling), analyzing the delicate balance that makes those characters both despised and beloved. The hosts deftly cover two episodes that are very different in tone while keeping things as entertaining as GLOW itself. [Brianna Wellen]

John Levenstein’s Retirement Party
John’s First Boss: Michael Nesmith


Veteran TV writer John Levenstein (Arrested Development, Silicon Valley) is finally retiring. Not really, but that’s the conceit of John Levenstein’s Retirement Party, so let’s just roll with it. With his many IMDB hits, he has an exhaustive list of interesting acquaintances available for his loose, conversational, and fun interview podcast, for the purposes of both reminiscence and grievance-airing. In this episode, he talks to his very first TV boss and former Monkee Michael Nesmith, who gave him his start writing for NBC’s short-lived 1985 comedy series Television Parts. There’s a lot of history in that show to talk about, but what Levenstein seems most interested in is validating his long-held belief that Nesmith physically tinkered with the office Missile Command arcade game in order to beat Levenstein’s high score. He even gets his elusive former co-writer Jack Handy on the phone to discuss it. And that’s the charm of the show. It’s less about the nuts and bolts of the industry and more about the lives of the people who exist there. The show is only available via Stitcher Premium, so at least you know such people are getting paid. [Dennis DiClaudio]

LA Podcast
Extremely Proud And Incredibly Close


You might not think a podcast exclusively about local news in Los Angeles County would be of interest to anyone outside Los Angeles County. But you’d be wrong. Listening to Hayes Davenport (of Hollywood Handbook fame) and Scott Frazier each week is like listening to your most informed friend give a humorous rundown of all the stories you know you should be paying attention to. LA Podcast covers a wide array of topics, from the clean water crisis in Compton to the ongoing debate over Bird scooters on the Westside to (in this episode) the recent scuffle at a bar in Atwater Village between known hate group The Proud Boys and anti-hate coalition Defend North East Los Angeles. While all these stories center around L.A.-specific events, their root causes are not unique to one area. Nearly every major city is dealing with the issues of too much traffic, not enough housing, and a rising tide of fringe political aggression. Davenport and Frazier, along with guest Alissa Walker of Curbed LA, provide some much needed context and potential solutions for these wonkish debates that even listeners outside L.A. will find useful, not to mention entertaining. [Dan Neilan]

How I Survived 8th Grade (w/ Bo Burnham & Elsie Fisher)


Mortified (as both a live stage show and a podcast repackaging of that live show) strikes both nostalgia and, as the title suggests, discomfort in its audience. Featuring storytellers reading entries straight from their teenage diaries, poetry collections, and love letters, the series achieves a fascinating hybrid of storytelling and epistolary record, complete with hyperbolic similes, adult retrospection, and childhood earnestness. And by pairing the stage readings with more in-depth interviews of the presenters, the podcast component sheds additional light on these universally relatable experiences, a heartwarming reminder that “the thoughts and the feelings were real.” This week’s featured guests Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher, whose new movie Eighth Grade has already won great acclaim, provide a compassionate look at these youthful depths, complete with contradictions and nuance, eliciting both compassion for our younger selves and a clear sense of how far we’ve come. [Jose Nateras]

Taste Buds
Critic vs. Restaurateur


It’s been something of a wild summer for esteemed independent podcast house CANADALAND, with its just-launched food and dining program Taste Buds arriving in the wake of the surprise cancellation of superlative arts and culture program The Imposter. While there are few programs that can fill such a unique void, Taste Buds is undoubtedly a product of the same forward-thinking braintrust. For a show seeking to break new ground in its approach to the culinary podcasting space, one could hardly imagine a better way to start than with this premiere episode. Host Corey Mintz meets up with acclaimed Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg at her celebrated restaurant The Black Hoof to act as moderator between Agg and restaurant critic Chris Nuttall-Smith (the latter of whom was an early contributor to our sister site, The Takeout). The pair have a loaded history, as Agg believes an earlier negative review of her restaurant Raw Bar from Nuttall-Smith led to its untimely closure. Over courses of horse tartare and sweetbread sausage, the pair’s early frisson of antipathy gives way to wonderfully candid and nuanced discussions on the dialectic relationship between critics and their subjects, the falsely inflated role of food in a restaurant’s success, and the scourge of institutional sexism in the culinary world. [Ben Cannon]

The Lonely Palette
Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Byrd Theater, Richmond, 1993 (1993)


Perhaps what’s most surprising about this charming art history podcast is not how much knowledge it packs into each episode, but how approachable the material is. A black-and-white photograph of a grand old-timey movie bathed in projection light is dissected in such an informed yet unassuming way that it simultaneously disarms both art snobs and iconoclasts. Turns out the photo is the work of a Japanese photographer/architect and is now part of a series that invites viewers to cultivate and contemplate stillness. Furthermore, the great white screen backlighting the theater isn’t illuminating a vast empty screen, but rather is the result of every frame of a movie played during the camera’s long exposure. This leads host Tamar Avishai to draw comparisons to other famous artistic attempts to capture motion (Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending A Staircase and 19th-century galloping horse photos, to name a few). Motion itself is often deployed by artists to capture something more abstract: the passage of time. By the time the episode wraps up, Avishai has woven Picasso, Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, and the listeners themselves into the same meta-conversation on existence suggested by Hiroshi Sugimoto’s theater photos. [Zach Brooke]

The Wilderness
Chapters 1 - 4


Last month, Pod Save America hosts Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, and Jon Lovett grimly dubbed the upcoming November midterm elections as the “last call for democracy.” And yet, with less than four months left to make its case, the progressive party currently poised to wrest power away from a bigoted, incompetent GOP majority continues to deliberate on core questions about its values and identity, questions like “What does it mean to be a Democrat in 2018?” and “How did the party lose a presidential election to a demented human colostomy bag?” In The Wilderness, Crooked Media’s latest podcast series, Favreau takes a big-picture documentary-style approach to studying where the party has failed and succeeded in living up to its own standards, and where Democrats need to move in order to avoid another catastrophe in November. The first four episodes largely play out as a history lesson and a family intervention: discomfiting, but ultimately healing. In particular, episode four, “The Voters,” offers some real deliverables, like the reality that a single-payer Medicare-for-all program may be far more of a unifying rallying cry than once assumed. [Dan Jakes]

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